Health System submits national LGBTQ survey

The survey analyzes a medical facility’s policies and procedures for LGBTQ patients.

Temple University Health System resubmitted its Human Rights Campaign 2018 Healthcare Equality Index survey last month, which is a tool used to assess a health care facility’s inclusion of LGBTQ patients. Temple Health  LGBTQ Alliance Task Force officials said the results of the survey have not yet been released.

TUHS first took the 2017 Healthcare Equality Index in Fall 2016 and received a score of 60 out of 100 points based on its policies and procedures regarding LGBT treatment. Since then, the task force has spearheaded educational campaigns and changes to improve the facility’s treatment of LGBTQ patients.

In order to become a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” a facility must receive 100 points, according to the HEI scoring guidelines. The survey is divided into five different categories: non-discrimination and staff training, patient services and support, employment benefits and policies, patient and community engagement and responsible citizenship.

According to documents from a meeting the task force held earlier this month, the 2017 survey found that the health system needed to address areas of inclusion, like its educational material and brochures for LGBTQ patients and its training in LGBTQ patient-centered care.

Ben Moore, a chairman of the task force, said some of TUHS’ policy language was outdated with terms like “sexual preference” instead of the more modern term “sexual orientation.” Terms like gender identity or gender expression were also not included in older policies.

“It wasn’t really an inclusive environment here,” Moore said. “There wasn’t really anything visible for the patients to see to say, ‘Hey, we’re here. We can provide support for any LGBTQ community member.’”

The task force, which began in September 2016, has worked to expand its resources for patients and mandatory LGBTQ health care training for its employees. The task force is made up of nine different subcommittees and 140 members from Temple University and the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, including faculty members and students.

Some of the topics on which the subcommittees are focused include outreach, medical school curriculum, finance and development and health systems policies.

TUHS is also working to create an LGBTQ Health Center. Dr. Robert Bettiker, a chairman of the task force, said the health center has short-term and long-term goals.

The health system expects the health center to operate as a clinic dedicated to LGBTQ patients at the Health Sciences Campus next year, Bettiker said.

Over the next 10 years, TUHS plans to expand the health center to include surgeons trained in transgender surgeries like gender-affirming surgery — an operation that changes one’s genitals to align with their gender identity.

Different schools at the university, like the College of Public Health and the Beasley School of Law, would also be represented at the center, Bettiker added.

Bettiker and Moore said TUHS plans to model its health center after other LGBTQ medical centers, like Boston University’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery.

Moore toured the facility in September and said it “showed us that we’re not as far behind as we thought we were.”

“We’ve been able to move a lot of mountains in the past year,” he added.

The task force released a list of 91 LGBTQ-friendly physicians out of more than 1,000 total at TUHS for LGBTQ patients last week. The list is ongoing, and as officials reach out to more physicians it can grow, Moore said.

“Another deficit was a lack of education,” Moore said regarding the survey’s results. In order to understand the level of comfort for caring for LGBTQ patients, the task force sent out a survey to physicians.

“We did have some not-so-positive comments from providers on the survey,” he added. “That just further proves that what we’re doing is justified, and we just continue to push forward.”

The results of this survey led a “phased approach” of training for employees to increase their levels of comfort for caring for LGBTQ patients, Moore said.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to improve the climate of Temple’s health system,” Moore said. “That kind of bleeds into Temple University. We’ll continue to try to improve the quality of any experience of not only the patients and visitors but for the employees and students as well.”

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